The Wildcats started off the NIT Season Tip-Off with a 35 point win over East Tennessee State, including a 34-3 run to end the first half. The Wildcats and their fans will be anticipating similar success as they take on the Akron Zips at the Pavilion Sunday afternoon. The Zips went 21-14 last season, including 9-9 and a 4th place finish in the MAC.
Akron could prove to be a tougher opponent than fans expected, coming off a big upset at Arkansas earlier this week. In that game, star guard Antonio Jackson scored 23 points and was one of five Zips to score in double digits. But it will be a much more daunting task to stop a Villanova team that seems to be firing on all cylinders. Here are three things to look for in tomorrow's game.
The O-Show Rolls On
Daniel Ochefu is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds, good for a double-double in each of his first 3 games this season. He's been unstoppable when he gets the ball in the paint, showing off an arsenal of moves and NBA-Level footwork. Even more impressive has been his wok on the offensive glass where he has 16 O-rebounds. Ochefu ranks 5th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, and all signs point to him continuing to dominate on offense. And lets not forget his defensive efforts. He's averaging almost 7 D-rebounds and over 2 blocks per game (Top 50 in Block % Nationally) on the season, and should be too much for the Akron centers to handle.
To Three, Or Not To Three
Villanova is known for taking a lot of threes, but Akron might be the first team they play this season that could be prepared for it. The Zips are holding opponents to 26.3% shooting on the season, and held Arkansas (24th in 3pt shooting nationally on the season with 43.8%) to just 30%. Now Villanova shot 30% or worse in its first two games and were still able to secure comfortable wins. But if the Wildcats are able to get going from behind the arc, there will be little Akron can do to stay in the game.
Finding the Foul Line
In their last game against East Tennessee State, Villanova only got to the line 12 times, and only made 8 of those. The Cats are only shooting 71.9% (Outside the Top 100 Nationally), and are only getting to the line on 29.2% of their field goals (287th Nationally). Not only do the Cats need to get to the line more often across the board, but they may need to take a few extra FT's in practice. Look for Bridges, Brunson, and Reynolds continue to lead Villanova in Free Throw Rate as they've consistently attacked the rim for contested lay-ups, leading to free throw opportunities.
In the end, this should just be another game preparing the Wildcats for New York. Ochefu should continue to lead the team offensively, with Arch, Hart, Brunson, Booth, and Jenkins providing additional support.